DETROIT – We should have known it was coming, honestly.
Everything was going way too well for the Detroit Lions this offseason. They’re coming off a winning season. Aaron Rodgers is hissy-fitting his way out of Green Bay. Brad Holmes addressed several weaknesses in free agency. And the draft is less than a week away, with the Lions poised to make some huge splashes.
Then, out of nowhere, on an innocent Friday in April, we learn that Jameson Williams -- one of the most exciting players on the team -- has been suspended for six games (36% of the season!) because he violated the league’s gambling policy.
I just... I don’t know. I think Jonah sums it up best:
We don’t need to go over the franchise’s ineptitude all over again. Everyone knows they’re one of only four teams to never make a Super Bowl. It’s common knowledge that it’s been, like, really freaking long since they won a playoff game (going on 32 years, and that was the only one in the literal Super Bowl era).
So it’s frustrating that this happened right now, when the team finally appears to be building something sustainable. The coaching staff is creating a culture, the offense is loaded, and the defense has a strong foundation.
Look, it’s not necessarily the end of the world to lose one wide receiver. We don’t truly know how good Williams is going to be, since he missed most of the year with a knee injury.
But there’s a reason the Lions traded valuable draft capital to move up to No. 12 and select him last year -- and we saw flashes of it when he turned his two touches into a 41-yard touchdown catch and a 40-yard run.
What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is how Williams’ elite speed and home run potential affects defenses. His presence alone would have made life much easier for No. 1 receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and the Lions’ strong rushing attack.
Detroit let D.J. Chark walk in free agency and didn’t make a major receiver addition, in part because they expected to add Williams to the mix full-time.
Williams is of the players Lions fans were most excited to see this year, but now he’ll miss the first six weeks (unless there’s a successful appeal), and by then, there’s no guarantee his integration into the offense will be smooth -- that’s not easy to do in the middle of the year.
Nobody really cares that Quintez Cephus and C.J. Moore were released for gambling on NFL games, or that Stanley Berryhill is also suspended six games. But the Williams news hurts the Lions significantly. They already counted on Williams missing most of 2022 when they drafted him, and now he’s going to miss a significant portion of his sophomore season, too.
Williams is only 22 years old, so obviously, he’s going to make mistakes. And it doesn’t sound like he was betting on NFL games, so the fact that his suspension is three times as long as players have gotten in the past for, say, domestic violence incidents, seems a bit harsh.
There’s also that other awkward elephant in the room: That you can’t sit through a single commercial break during an NFL game without seeing two FanDuel commercials and a promo for the network’s upcoming half-hour gambling special.
The NFL owes most of its popularity to gambling and fantasy sports, so you might call the length of the Williams suspension a bit, uh, hypocritical?
Nonetheless, the Lions invested heavily to bring Williams to Detroit, so he has to know what he can and can’t do. It’s a costly mistake, and one that puts a damper on what had been an encouraging offseason.
This isn’t “Same Old Lions” in a sense that the franchise did anything wrong. But it does feel awfully familiar to see the league take any opportunity to kick the Lions while they’re down -- or, in this instance, while they were up.